June 24 2012 12:39PM
I have to confess that I've never been much of a Luke Schenn fan. It's perhaps true that if he had been drafted to a more patient team, I'd be telling a different story today, but whether or not the Leafs "rushed" him, I think mf37 is correct in making a connection to Luke Richardson, not Adam Foote.
It's not a given that more time in junior and/or the AHL would have helped Schenn greatly. His most glaring shortcoming is undoubtedly his skating, and it's unlikely playing more time against weaker competition would have helped that at all. That said, his lack of foot speed gives him less time to make decisions with the puck in his own zone, which is something that he may have worked on in junior. Furthermore, Schenn may have been able to hone his positional awareness - a critical element of any defender's game, but one made even more important by a lack of speed.
Schenn is still a very young player, and it's true that defenders generally take longer to round into form than forwards, so all is not lost. Heck, his point totals have even risen gently each season. A change of scenery has the potential to do him good.
Schenn's defensive numbers at Behind the Net have looked from mediocre to bad over the past few years, and (as suggested by this shot chart) all this is happening while he plays a very conservative brand of hockey.
So Schenn may be an eraser of sorts - he's lead the Leafs in hits every single year since his arrival - but if we just stick to the facts (as opposed to a hypothetical revisionist history) I have difficulty imagining him as anything more.
In short, the Leafs aren't losing anything significant right now, and I doubt they are sacrificing much of a future. All the best to Luke now that he has joined his brother in Philly.
In James van Riemsdyk, the Leafs are acquiring a player much more ready to contribute to an NHL roster. Schenn, for all his perceived upside, was a healthy scratch on a very poor defensive team, while JvR looks like a lock to put up roughly 20 goals, 20 assists, and 40 points, and probably more, if he can find his way onto the first powerplay unit (though he did get considerable time on the PP in Phill).
Similar to Schenn, it's unclear how much growing room JvR really has, particularly since he hasn't drastically improved his point-per-game rate in the NHL over the last three seasons. To be fair, he had injury issues to contend with last season, but a jump start will be required for him to live up to his current $4.25M cap hit.
Brian Burke was emphatic that JvR is not "a big banger", but also that he is very capable of using his size to get where he wants to go in the offensive zone. Just a personal preference here, but I'd rather the Leafs have players that use their size to deploy their skill, not players whose skill is size.
For now, we'll hope for the best and hope that the multi-year deals previously accorded to both players both turn out to be a positive, cost-controlling measure.
As a Leafs fan, I'm cautiously optimistic about this move.
What this trade may mean in a larger perspective for the Leafs is an interesting point of discussion.
Due to the fact that top-line centres are hard to come by, Brian Burke may simply be looking to bolster his offence when and where he can. Going after elite talent is a good idea regardless of the position, so the question (and ensuing semantic debate) about whether or not van Riemsdyk is indeed 'elite' is relevant, but given his age, I am willing to give this deal some time.
Pushing other players down the depth chart is a great thing for Toronto, which now has a chance of icing three very solid lines. Of course, Nikolai Kulemin probably isn't crazy about his chances of being re-signed without a trade, but I'll cling to the idea of a solid top-9 set of forwards for now.
Perhaps the best thing to come from this deal? Leafs fans won't be subjected to any more Brayden Schenn rumours. (Glove tap to Danny Gray on that one.)